Unveiling a Parallel, by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant , at sacred-texts.com
MY conversation with Elodia had the effect of crystallizing my nebulous plans about visiting the Caskians into a sudden resolve. I could not remain longer in her presence without pain to myself; and, to tell the truth, I dreaded lest her astounding lack of the moral sensewhich should be the foundation stone of woman's characterwould eventually dull my own. Men are notoriously weak where women are concernedthe women they worship.
As soon as I had communicated with the Caskians and learned that they were still anticipating my coming, withthey were so kind as to say itthe greatest pleasure, I prepared to set forth.
In the meantime, an event occurred which further illustrated the social conditions in Paleveria. Claris, the wife of Massilla, died very suddenly, and I was astonished at the tremendous sensation the circumstance occasioned throughout the city. It seemed to me that the only respect it was possible to pay to the memory of such a woman must be that which is expressed in absolute p. 112 silence,even charity could not be expected to do more than keep silent. But I was mistaken, Claris had been a woman of distinction, in many ways; she was beautiful, rich, and talented, and she had wielded an influence in public and social affairs. Immediately, the various periodicals in Thursia, and in neighboring cities, flaunted lengthy eulogistic obituaries headed with more or less well executed portraits of the deceased. It seemed as if the authors of these effusions must have run through dictionaries of complimentary terms, which they culled lavishly and inserted among the acts and facts of her life with a kind of journalistic sleight-of-hand. And private comment took its cue from these authorities. It was said that she was a woman of noble traits, and pretty anecdotes were told of her, illustrating her generous impulses, her wit, her positiveness. She had had great personal magnetism, many had loved her, many had also feared her, for her tongue could cut like a sword. It was stated that her children had worshiped her, and that her death had prostrated her husband with grief. Of the chief blackness of her character none spoke.
Severnius invited me to attend the funeral obsequies which took place in the Auroras Temple, where the embalmed body lay in state; with incense burning and innumerable candles casting their pallid light upon the bier. I observed as we drove through the streets that the closed doors of all the business houses exhibited the emblems of respect and sorrow.
The Auroras were assembled in great numbers, having come from distant parts of the country to do honor to the dead. They were in full regalia, with mourning badges, and carried inverted torches. The religious ceremonies and mystic rites of the Order were elaborate and impressive. The dirge which followed, and during which the members of the Order formed in procession and began a slow march, was so unutterably and profoundly sad p. 113 that I could not keep back the tears. A little sobbing voice directly in front of me wailed out "Mamma! Mamma!" A woman stooped down and whispered, "Do you want to go up and kiss Mamma 'good-by' before they take her away?" But the child shrank back, afraid of the pomp and ghostly magnificence surrounding the dead form.
Elodia was of course the chief figure in the procession, and she bore herself with a grave and solemn dignity in keeping with the ceremonies. The sight of her beautiful face, with its subdued but lofty expression, was more than I could bear. I leaned forward and dropped my face in my hands, and let the sorrow-laden requiem rack my soul with its sweet torture as it would.
That was my last day in Thursia.
I had at first thought of taking my aeroplane along with me, reflecting that I might better begin my homeward flight from some mountain top in Caskia; but Severnius would not hear of that.
"No indeed!" said he, "you must return to us again. I wish to get ready a budget for you to carry back to your astronomers, which I think will be of value to them, as I shall make a complete map of the heavens as they appear to us. Then we shall be eager to hear about your visit. And besides, we want to see you again on the ground of friendship, the strongest reason of all!"
"You are too kind!" I responded with much feeling. I knew that he was as sincere as he was polite. This was at the last moment, and Elodia was present to bid me "good-by." She seconded her brother's invitation,"O, yes, of course you must come back!" and turned the whole power of her beautiful face upon me, and for the first time gave me her hand. I had coveted it a hundred times as it lay lissome and white in her lap. I clasped it, palm to palm. It was as smooth as satin, and not moist,I dislike a p. 114 moist hand. I felt that up to that moment I had always undervalued the sense of touch,it was the finest of all the senses! No music, no work of art, no wondrous scene, had ever so thrilled me and set my nerves a-quiver, as did the delicate, firm pressure of those magic fingers. The remembrance of it made my blood tingle as I went on my long journey from Thursia to Lunismar.
It was a long journey in miles, though not in time, we traveled like the wind.
Both Clytia and Calypso were at the station to meet me, with their two children, Freya and Eurydice. I learned that nearly all Caskians are named after the planetoids or other heavenly bodies,a very appropriate thing, since they live so near the stars!
My heart went out to the children the moment my eyes fell upon their faces.
They were as beautiful as Raphael's cherubs, you could not look upon them without thrills of delight. They were two perfect buds of the highest development humanity has ever attained to,so far as we know. I felt that it was a wonderful thing to know that in these lovely forms there lurked no germs of evil, over their sweet heads there hung no Adam's curse! They were seated in a pretty pony carriage, with a white canopy top lined with blue silk. Freya held the lines. It appeared that Eurydice had driven down and he was to drive back. The father and mother were on foot. They explained that it was difficult to drive anything but the little carriage up the steep path to their home on the hillside, half a mile distant.
"Who would wish for any other means of locomotion than nature has given him, in a country where the buoyant air makes walking a luxury!" I cried, stretching my legs and filling my lungs, with an unwonted sense of freedom and power.
I had become accustomed to the atmosphere of Paleveria, p. 115 but here I had the same sensations I had experienced when I first landed there.
"If you would rather, you may take my place, sir?" said the not much more than knee-high Freya, ready to relinquish the lines. I felt disposed to laugh, but not so the wise parents.
"The little ponies could not draw our friend up the hill, he is too heavy," explained Clytia.
"Thank you, my little man, all the same!" I added.
It was midsummer in Paleveria, but here I observed everything had the newness and delightful freshness of spring. A busy, bustling, joyous, tuneful spring. The grass was green and succulent; the sap was in the trees and their bark was sleek and glossy, their leaves just unrolled. Of the wild fruit trees, every branch and twig was loaded with eager buds crowding upon each other as the heads of children crowd at a cottage window when one goes by. Every thicket was full of bird life and music. I heard the roar of a waterfall in the distance, and Calypso told me that a mighty river, the Eudosa, gathered from a hundred mountain streams, was compressed into a deep gorge or canyon and fell in a succession of cataracts just below the city, and finally spread out into a lovely lake, which was a wonder in its way, being many fathoms deep and as transparent as the atmosphere.
We paused to listen,the children also.
"How loud it is to-day, Mamma," exclaimed Freya. His mother assented and turned to me with a smile. "The falls of Eudosa constitute a large part of our life up here," she said; "we note all its moods, which are many. Sometimes it is drowsy, and purrs and murmurs; again it is merry, and sings; or it is sublime, and rises to a thunderous roar. Always it is sound. Do you know, my ears ached with the silence when I was down in Paleveria!"
I have said Clytia's eyes were black; it was not an opaque p. 116 blackness, you could look through them down into her soul. I likened them in my mind to the waters of the Eudosa which Calypso had just described.
Every moment something new attracted our attention and the brief journey was full of incident; the children were especially alive to the small happenings about us, and I never before took such an interest in what I should have called insignificant things. Sometimes the conversation between my two friends and myself rose above the understanding of the little ones, but they were never ignored,nor were they obtrusive; they seemed to know just where to fit their little questions and remarks into the talk. It was quite wonderful. I understood, of course, that the children had been brought down to meet me in order that I might make their acquaintance immediately and establish my relations with them, since I was to be for some time a member of the household. They had their small interests apart from their elderscarefully guarded by their eldersas children should have; but whenever they were permitted to be with us, they were of us. They were never allowed to feel that loneliness in a crowd which is the most desolate loneliness in the world. Clytia especially had the art of enveloping them in her sympathy, though her intellectual faculties were employed elsewhere. And how they loved her! I have seen nothing like it upon the Earth.
Perhaps I adapt myself with unusual readiness to new environments, and assimilate more easily with new persons than most people do. I had, as you know, left Paleveria with deep reluctance, under compulsion of my willmoved by my better judgment; and throughout my journey I had deliberately steeped myself in sweet and bitter memories of my life there, to the exclusion of much that might have been interesting and instructive to me on the way,a foolish and childish thing to have p. 117 done. And now, suddenly, Paleveria dropped from me like a garment. Some moral power in these new friends, and perhaps in this city of Lunismar,a power I could feel but could not define,raised me to a different, unmistakably a higher, plane. I felt the change as one feels the change from underground to the upper air.
We first walked a little way through the city, which quite filled the valley and crept up onto the hillsides, here and there.
Each building stood alone, with a little space of ground around it, upon which grass and flowers and shrubbery grew, and often trees. Each such space bore evidence that it was as tenderly and scrupulously tended as a Japanese garden.
It was the cleanest city I ever saw; there was not an unsightly place, not a single darksome alley or lurking place for vice, no huddling together of miserable tenements. I remarked upon this and Calypso explained:
"Our towns used to be compact, but since electricity has annihilated distance we have spread ourselves out. We have plenty of ground for our population, enough to give a generous slice all round. Lunismar really extends through three valleys."
Crystal streams trickled down from the mountains and were utilized for practical and æsthetic purposes. Small parks, exquisitely pretty, were very numerous, and in them the sparkling water was made to play curious pranks. Each of these spots was an ideal resting place, and I saw many elderly people enjoying them,people whom I took to be from sixty to seventy years of age, but who, I was astonished to learn, were all upwards of a hundred. Perfect health and longevity are among the rewards of right living practiced from generation to generation. The forms of these old people were erect and their faces were beautiful in intelligence and sweetness of expression. p. 118
I remarked, apropos of the general beauty and elegance of the buildings we passed:
"This must be the fine quarter of Lunismar."
"No, not especially," returned Calypso, "it is about the same all over."
"Is it possible! then you must all be rich?" said I.
"We have no very poor," he replied, "though of course some have larger possessions than others. We have tried, several times in the history of our race, to equalize the wealth of the country, but the experiment has always failed, human nature varies so much."
"What, even here?" I asked.
"What do you mean?" said he.
"Why, I understand that you Caskians have attained to a most perfect state of development and culture, and" I hesitated and he smiled.
"And you think the process eliminates individual traits?" he inquired.
Clytia laughingly added:
"I hope, sir, you did not expect to find us all exactly alike, that would be too tame!"
"You compliment me most highly," said Calypso, seriously, "but we must not permit you to suppose that we regard our 'development' as anywhere near perfect, In fact, the farther we advance, the greater, and the grander, appears the excellence to which we have not yet attained. Though it would be false modestyand a disrespect to our ancestorsnot to admit that we are conscious of having made some progress, as a race. We know what our beginnings were, and what we now are."
After a moment he went on: p. 119
"I suppose the principle of differentiation, as we observe it in plant and animal life, is the same in all life, not only physical, but intellectual, moral, spiritual. Cultivation, though it softens salient traits and peculiarities, may develop infinite variety in every kind and species."
I understood this better later on, after I had met a greater number of people, and after my perceptions had become more delicate and acute,or when a kind of initiatory experience had taught me how to see and to value excellence.
A few years ago a border of nasturtiums exhibited no more than a single color tone, the pumpkin yellow; and a bed of pansies resembled a patch of purple heather. Observe now the chromatic variety and beauty produced by intelligent horticulture! A group of commonplace peoplemoderately disciplined by culturemight be compared to the pansies and nasturtiums of our early recollection, and a group of these highly refined Caskians to the delicious flowers abloom in modern gardens.
We crave variety in people, as we crave condiments in food. For me, this craving was never so satisfiedand at the same time so thoroughly stimulatedas in Caskian society, which had a spiciness of flavor impossible to describe.
Formality was disarmed by perfect breeding, there was nothing that you could call "manner." The delicate faculty of intuition produced harmony. I never knew a single instance in which the social atmosphere was disagreeably jarred,a common enough occurrence where we depend upon the machinery of social order rather than upon the vital principle of good conduct.
I inquired of Calypso, as we walked along, the sources of the people's wealth. He replied that the mountains were full of it. There were minerals and precious stones, and metals in great p. 120 abundance; and all the ores were manufactured in the vicinity of the mines before being shipped to the lower countries and exchanged for vegetable products.
This prompted me to ask the familiar question:
"And how do you manage the labor problem?" He did not understand me until after I had explained about our difficulties in that line. And then he informed me that most of the people who worked in mines and factories had vested interests in them.
"Physical labor, however," he added, "is reduced to the minimum; machinery has taken the place of muscle."
"And thrown an army of workers out of employment and the means of living, I suppose?" I rejoined, taking it for granted that the small share-holders had been squeezed out, as well as the small operators.
"O, no, indeed," he returned, in surprise. "It has simply given them more leisure. Everybody now enjoys the luxury of spare time, and may devote his energies to the service of other than merely physical needs." He smiled as he went on, "This labor problem the Creator gave us was a knotty one, wasn't it? But what a tremendous satisfaction there is in the thoughtand in the factthat we have solved it."
I was in the dark now, and waited for him to go on.
"To labor incessantly, to strain the muscles, fret the mind, and weary the soul, and to shorten the life, all for the sake of supplying the wants of the body, and nothing more, is, I think, an inconceivable hardship. And to have invoked the forces of the insensate elements and laid our burdens upon them, is a glorious triumph."
"Yes, if all men are profited by it," I returned doubtfully. "They are, of course," said he, "at least with us. I was shocked p. 121 to find it quite different in Paleveria. There, it seemed to me, machinerywhich has been such a boon to the laborers herehas been utilized simply and solely to increase the wealth of the rich. I saw a good many people who looked as though they were on the brink of starvation."
"I don't see how you manage it otherwise," I confessed.
"It belongs to the history of past generations," he replied. "Perhaps the hardest struggle our progenitors had was to conquer the lusts of the flesh,of which the greed of wealth is doubtless the greatest. They began to realize, generations ago, that Mars was rich enough to maintain all his children in comfort and even luxury,that none need hunger, or thirst, or go naked or houseless, and that more than this was vanity and vain-glory. And just as they, with intense assiduity, sought out and cultivated nature's resourcesfor the reduction of labor and the increase of wealthso they sought out and cultivated within themselves corresponding resources, those fit to meet the new era of material prosperity; namely, generosity and brotherly love."
"Then you really and truly practice what you preach!" said I, with scant politeness, and I hastened to add, "Severnius told me that you recognize the trinity in human nature. Well, we do, too, upon the Earth, but the Three have hardly an equal chance! We preach the doctrine considerably more than we practice it."
"I understand that you are a highly intellectual people," remarked Calypso, courteously.
"Yes, I suppose we are," said I; "our achievements in that line are nothing to be ashamed of. And," I added, remembering some felicitous sensations of my own, "there is no greater delight than the travail of intellect which brings forth great ideas."
"Pardon me!" he returned, "the travail of soul which brings p. 122 forth a great lovea love willing to share equally with others the fruits of intellectual triumphis, to my mind, infinitely greater."
We had reached the terrace, or little plateau, on which my friends house stood; it was like a strip of green velvet for color and smoothness.
The house was built of rough gray stone which showed silver glintings in the sun. Here and there, delicate vines clung to the walls. There was a carriage porchinto which the children droveand windows jutting out into the light, and many verandas and little balconies, that seemed to give the place a friendly and hospitable air. Above there was a spacious observatory, in which was mounted a very fine telescope that must have cost a fortune,though my friends were not enormously rich, as I had learned from Severnius. But these people do not regard the expenditure of even very large sums of money for the means of the best instruction and the best pleasures as extravagance, if no one suffers in consequence. I cannot go into their economic system very extensively here, but I may say that it provides primarily that all shall share bountifully in the general good; and after that, individuals may gratify their respective tastesor rather, satisfy their higher needs; for their tastes are never fanciful, but always realas they can afford.
I do not mean that this is a written law, a formal edict, to be evaded by such cunning devices as we know in our land, or at best loosely construed; nor is it a mere sentiment preached from pulpits and glorified in literature,a beautiful but impracticable conception! It is purely a moral law, and being such it is a vital principle in each individual consciousness.
The telescope was Calypso's dearest possession, but I never doubted his willingness to give it up, if there should come a time p. 123 when the keeping of it would be the slightest infringement of this law. I may add that in all the time I spent in Caskia, I never saw a man, woman, or child, but whose delight in any possession would have been marred by the knowledge that his, or her, gratification meant another's bitter deprivation. The question between Thou and I was always settled in favor of Thou. And no barriers of race, nationality, birth, or position, affected this universal principle.
I made a discovery in relation to the Caskians which would have surprised and disappointed me under most circumstances; they had no imagination, and they were not given to emotional excitation. Their minds touched nothing but what was real. But mark this: Their real was our highest ideal. The moral world was to them a real world; the spiritual world was to them a real world. They had no need of imagery. And they were never carried away by floods of feeling, for they were always up to their highest level,I mean in the matter of kindness and sympathy and love. Moreover, their intellectual perceptions were so clear, and the mysteries of nature were unrolled before their understanding in such orderly sequence, that although their increase of knowledge was a continuous source of delight, it never came in shocks of surprise or excited childish wonderment. I cannot hope to give you more than a faint conception of the dignity and majesty of a people whose triple nature was so highly and so harmoniously developed. One principle governed the three: Truth. They were true to every law under which they had been created and by which they were sustained. They were taught from infancybut of this further on. I wish to reintroduce Ariadne to you and let her explain some of the wonders of their teaching, she being herself a teacher.
The observatory was a much used apartment, by both the p. 124 family and by guests. It was a library also, and it contained musical instruments. A balcony encircled it on the outside, and here we often sat of evenings, especially if the sky was clear and the stars and moon were shining. The heavens as seen at night were as familiar to Clytia and Calypso, and even to the children, as a friend's face.
It was pleasant to sit out upon the balcony even on moonless nights and when the stars were hidden, and look down upon the city all brilliantly alight, and listen to the unceasing music of the Falls of Eudosa. I, too, soon learned his many "moods."
Back of the house there rose a long succession of hills, ending finally in snowcapped mountains, the highest of which was called the Spear, so sharply did it thrust its head up through the clouds into the heavens.
The lower hills had been converted into vineyards. A couple of men were fixing the trellises, the Calypso excused himself to his wife and me and went over to them. A neatly dressed maid came out of the house and greeted the children, who had much important news to relate concerning their drive; and a last year's bird-nest to show her, which they took pains to explain was quite useless to the birds, who were all making nice new nests. The sight of the maid,evidently an intelligent and well-bred girl,whose face beamed affectionately upon the little ones, prompted a question from me:
"How do you manage about your servants, I mean house servants," I asked; "do you have people here who are willing to do menial work?"
Clytia looked up at me with an odd expression. Her answer, coming from any one less sincere, would have sounded like cant. "We do not regard any work as mean." p. 125
"But some kinds of work are distasteful, to say the least," I insisted.
"Not if you love those for whom you labor," she returned. "A mother does not consider any sort of service to her child degrading."
"O, I know that," said I; "that is simply natural affection."
"But natural affection, you know, is only the germ of love. It is narrow,only a little broader than selfishness."
"Well, tell me how it applies in this question of service?" I asked. "I am not able to comprehend it in the abstract."
"We do not require people to do anything for us which we would not do for ourselves, or for them," she said. "And then, we all work. We believe in work; it means strength to the body and relief to the mind. No one permits himself to be served by another for the unworthy reason, openly or tacitly confessed, that he is either too proud, or too indolent, to serve himself."
"Then why have servants at all?" I asked.
"My husband explained to you," she returned, "that our people are not all equally rich; and they are not all adapted to what you would call, perhaps, the higher grades of service. You see the little maid yonder with the children; she has the gifts of a teacher,our teachers are very carefully chosen, and as carefully instructed. She has been placed with me for our mutual benefit,I could not intrust my little ones to the care of a mere paid nurse who thought only of her wages. Nor could she work simply for wages. The money consideration is the smallest item in the arrangement. My husband superintends some steel works in which he has some shares. The man he is talking with nowwho is attending to the grape vineshas also a large interest in the steel works, but he has no taste or faculty for engaging p. 126 in that kind of business. He might spend his whole life in idleness if he chose, or in mental pursuits, for he is a very scholarly man, but he loves the kind of work he is doing now, and our vineyard is his especial pride. Moreover," a beautiful smile touched her face as she looked up at the two men on the hillside, "Fides loves my Calypso, they are soul friends!"
When I became more familiar with the household, I found that the same relations existed all round; mutual pleasure, mutual sympathy, mutual helpfulness. First there seemed to be on the part of each employee a distinct preference and liking for the kind of work he or she had undertaken to do; second, a fitness and careful preparation for the work; and last, the love of doing for those who gave appreciation, love, and another sort of service or assistance in return. I heard one of them say one day:
"I ask nothing better than to be permitted to cook the meals for these dear people!"
This was a woman who wrote monthly articles on chemistry and botany for one of the leading scientific journals. She was a middle-aged woman and unmarried, who did not wish to live alone, who abhorred "boarding," and who had found just such a comfortable nest in Clytia's home as suited all her needs and desires. Of course she did not slave in the kitchen all day long, and her position did not debar her from the best and most intelligent society, nor cut her off from the pleasure and privileges that sweeten life. She brought her scientific knowledge to the preparation of the food she set before us, and took as much pride in the results of her skill as an inventor takes in his appliances. And such wholesome, delicious, well-cooked dishes I have never eaten elsewhere. Clytia believed in intelligently prepared food, as she believed in intelligent instruction for her children; she would have thought it a crime to set an ignorant person over her kitchen. p. 127 And this woman of whom I am speaking knew that she held a place of honor and trust, and she filled it not only with dignity but lovingness. She had some younger women to assist her, whom she was instructing in the science and the art of cooking, and who would by-and-by take responsible positions themselves. These women, or girls, assisted also in the housekeeping, which was the most perfect system in point of cleanliness, order and beauty that it is possible to conceive of in a home; because skill, honesty and conscientiousness enter into every detail of the life of these people. The body is held in honor, and its needs are respected. Life is sacred, and physical sins,neglect or infringement of the laws of health,are classed in the same category with moral transgressions. In fact, the same principles and the same mathematical rules apply in the Three Natures of Man,refined of course to correspond with the ascending scale from the lowest to the highest, from the physical to the spiritual. But so closely are the Three allied that there are no dividing lines,there is no point where the Mind may say, "Here my responsibility ends," or where the Body may affirm, "I have only myself to please." Day by day these truths became clear to me. There was nothing particularly new in anything that I heard,indeed it was all singularly familiar, in sound. But the wonder was, that the things we idealize, and theorize about, they accept literally, and absorb into their lives. They have made living facts of our profoundest philosophy and our sublimest poetry. Are we then too philosophical, too poetical,and not practical? A good many centuries have rolled up their records and dropped them into eternity since we were given the simple, wonderful lesson, "Whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap,"and we have not learned it yet! St. Paul's voice rings through the Earth from age to age, "Work out your own salvation," and we do not comprehend. These people have p. 128 never had a Christin flesh and bloodbut they have put into effect every precept of our Great Teacher. They have received the message, from whence I know not,or rather by what means I know not,"A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another."